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Pugu Nature Forest Reserve: A Forest that Serves Millions
© Nyumbani/WWF Tanzania
Pugu Forest Reserve

A few kilometers from one of the fastest growing commercial cities in Africa, Dar Es Salaam is the Pugu Kazimzumbwi Forest Nature Reserve. Tis is one of the few remnants of Coastal Forests and the most important forest for the dwellers of Dar Es Salaam, Kisarawe District and nearby towns. They call the reserve the lungs of Dar Es Salaam because it is the only near the city forest that helps with purifying the air that more that 6.7 million people in city depend on.

Tito Mwenda who has been a forest guide for more than 40 years tells the story of the forest and says it used to be completely dense and the weather there was nowhere near any other coastal cities. “We had a lot of bird species that we haven’t seen for a few years now, even wildlife and some of the tree species”. But the increase in population and demand for more land for cultivation, over grazing and forest fires changed the story completely. Although this was a protected forest illegal activities that threatened its existence were happening.

© Nyumbani/WWF Tanzania
The nature bridge

The government of the United Republic of Tanzania took strategic action to save the forest and established Tanzania Forest Services (TFS) in 2010, and working in collaboration with stakeholders like WWF efforts for restoration took a different turn. A few years along the line the story has changed. Today the forest is slowly getting back to its feet with tree cover increasing year after year. The forest has now been upgraded to a Forest Nature Reserve which is a higher level in conservation following a successful restoration. The approach that has led to the success has among others included tree planting but with awareness and economic empowerment for the communities leaving around the reserve where activities like bee keeping an ecotourism investments have been encouraged to make sure both people and nature thrive together.

Fred Ndandika a manager from TFS says they have established support groups in the communities and these play a key role in the protection of the reserve. The reserve is now becoming a tourism hotspot near the city where they now receive an average of 200 visitors per day which is a big difference compared to the last 5 years. 

Mr. Mwenda is now hopeful that the future of his generation looks better thanks to the conservation efforts of the reserve. "I am hopeful that my children and the children of my children will inherit a better place. I speak to them again and again on the importance of protecting especially the forest as you know all life starts there. we cant have water without forests, we can have clean water without forests even our medicines come from the forest".

Forest loss in Tanzania due to human activities is estimated at 469,000 ha per year. Out of this, forest near Cities and Towns are the most affected due to blooming human population coupled with change in the land use including expansion in agriculture, over exploitation of forests and infrastructure development.

© Nyumbani/WWF Tanzania
Bee keeping as a nature based solution for communities living around the nature reserve